I belong to a group of folks who meet every 2 weeks ostensibly to discuss Philosophies of life, starting with Buddhism. As you might guess, the conversation often ranges widely. We bring in quotes we have read to discuss, and one of our members writes poetry off the cuff to read to us.
This week, one of the members read a blurb on the back jacket of “A Stroke of Insight” – an Oprah-reviewed book by a neurologist who had a stroke, and was able to watch as the symptoms overcame her:
On December 10, 1996, Jill Bolte Taylor, a thirty-seven- year-old Harvard-trained brain scientist experienced a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. As she observed her mind deteriorate to the point that she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life-all within four hours-Taylor alternated between the euphoria of the intuitive and kinesthetic right brain, in which she felt a sense of complete well-being and peace, and the logical, sequential left brain, which recognized she was having a stroke and enabled her to seek help before she was completely lost. It would take her eight years to fully recover.
For Taylor, her stroke was a blessing and a revelation. It taught her that by “stepping to the right” of our left brains, we can uncover feelings of well-being that are often sidelined by “brain chatter.”
One of the members quipped about being in “your right mind” – and that made so many connections for me, so immediately, on so many levels, I thought I really should share the idea.
This is why people meditate: to access the peace and well-being. For those of us who see meditation as just one more thing on the ever growing list of “todos”, let me suggest that one doesn’t need to sit cross legged in front of a blank wall for hours in order to meditate.
I’ve been meditating for years without really realizing what I was doing. My learning process went like this:
- Answer the question: what is the most beautiful, safest space you can think of?
- Make that space as real as you can: notice the sounds, the texture/temperature; what is beneath your feet or under your hands; whether your or sitting or standing or laying down; the smells; what you hear. This doesn’t have to happen all at once. In fact, as you are making your space real, you are learning to meditate!
- Practice dropping into that beautiful safe space every time you feel panic or overwhelm approaching. If you have made your space real, this will get easier and easier to do. Soon you will be able to drop into your space on an in and an out breath.
- Because you are safe, and because this is your very own wonderful space, you do not need to stay there long to access your Right Mind.
For whatever reason, my safe space was the California Redwoods, long before I ever saw them. I could see myself sitting amongst large trees. I could only see my back (later I was no longer “outside” myself, but was actually sitting). I was and am convinced that on some level at some time I lived beneath their majesty.
Once I finally got to see the Redwoods, I learned another lesson – my imagination of them from pictures and yearning didn’t even begin to touch their reality. My safe space then taught me to imagine bigger. Which led to the picture illustrating this essay.
Nothing ever stays the same.
Once I needed to be able to drop into my space and then return quickly because I was working for a corporation – which was usually what was taking me out of my Right Mind. I must say it was great practice!
Now, however, self-employment allows me a slow wake-up in the morning and I have consequently begun to use that time to be quiet, listen to my breathing, be grateful for at least one something, and be safe – next to my snoring pugs and husband. This starts my day in my Right Mind. Which is to say: sane.
At the end of the day when I walk the dogs in my treed back yard, and peak at the moon and stars through the dark branches, I feel that same kind of releasing, that movement into my Right Mind and letting go of whatever the day brought.
Do you have a safe space you go to in your mind or in actuality?
If you meditate, what are the rituals you use that encourage you to continue?
How do you stay in your Right Mind when your Left Mind is harrassing you with facts and figures?
I’d love to hear!